Review-in-Progress: MAG

After a few days of fighting the Shadow War, we have an early report on how this massive online shooter is performing in the field.

Earlier this week, Sony released its 256-player, online-only military shooter, MAG. I've been playing since launch day and undermining the world's geopolitical stability as an agent of S.V.E.R. Because I still have some ranks to earn before I can access certain echelons of command, the review won't be coming until early next week. I have, however, put plenty of hours into the game, enough to form some early impressions that I'll share with you here. For those who want something quick and simple: MAG is good so far. Shooting mechanics are solid, battlefields are enjoyably chaotic, and earning experience is satisfying. For those who want to know a bit more, read on.

When you start off in MAG, you have to sign up with one of three private military companies (PMCs). Raven is the Eurocentric technophile team, Valor is stocked with North American military vets, and S.V.E.R. is a hodgepodge of insurgent types from across Asia. The differences among the groups are largely aesthetic, and thus far, S.V.E.R. seems to be the most well represented of the three, with Valor close behind. Factions compete in a global shadow war in a few different match types. If one faction dominates a match type, it can earn contract rewards that bestow bonuses, such as plus-5-percent experience points in that particular match type. These contracts can change hands daily depending on each faction's performance.

There are four different match types, but only one is available to you from the start. Suppression is a 64-player team deathmatch that takes place solely among members of your own faction. There's nothing to do here but kill the other team and hone your weapons skills. If you've been playing any other online shooter recently, the controls will be largely familiar, and the few differences are easy to learn. Suppression matches tend to be on the short side and are generally populated with lower level characters. It's a fine way to earn XP and get the hang of the controls. But these matches are straightforward and don't showcase any of MAG's interesting command chain features.

You can unlock the next few match types very easily, and these introduce you to varying objectives, as well as more diverse battlefields. In Sabotage, the attacking PMC must capture and hold two well-defended points in order to access the third and final capture point. In these 64-player matches, you need to capture or defend whichever point (A or B) is gently pulsing. The pulsing indicates that your squad leader has designated that point as your objective, so any XP earned in that area will count double. This is the incentive that MAG uses to encourage players to stay with their squad, and it's quite effective. Earning XP allows you to unlock new guns, improved abilities, and the right to command a squad of your own.

The barracks screen allows you to choose which specific bonuses you want to unlock and lets you spec your character down certain paths. Assault, marksman, support, and heavy are fairly straightforward categories, but areas like athleticism and close quarters can add interesting twists to your battlefield skills. There's a good amount of customization options, but it can be unclear what you need to purchase in order to unlock more powerful rewards. You only need to spend a certain number of points in each tier to unlock the next one rather than purchase every upgrade in a given tier. Once you figure it out, the interface is easy to understand, and you can undo choices you don't like by earning respect points. You earn these points at a steady rate by playing matches, though it's unclear what affects this rate.

Acquisition is a larger game type that can accommodate 128 players. Assaulting teams try to infiltrate enemy territory, steal a vehicle, and deliver it to a safe evac point. These matches feature bunkers, gates, antiaircraft batteries, and sensor arrays, making the battlefield rich with potential objectives. Bombing a bunker will neutralize a powerful minigun and enemy spawn point, while repairing an antiaircraft battery can keep the enemy from calling in potent air strikes. This can lead to some battlefield confusion, but ideally, the average soldier doesn't need to worry about all that. The squad leader should designate a target, the assumption being that by the time players can become a squad leader, they have a good idea of how the battle should flow. Of course, this isn't always the case, and there's no way to give your squad leader feedback. That is, unless you have a headset.

Any confusion that acquisition may cause is only magnified in domination, the much-touted 256-player battles. In both of these match types, the battlefields are arranged in such a way that only 64 players are concentrated in a given area. You won't see rows of 100 attackers shooting at 100 enemies (this ain't the Revolutionary War), but you will get a sense that you are part of a big conflict. Domination is littered with objectives to destroy and repair. The tactical assists that commanders call in can also have substantial effects. Gas bombs can choke an area with poisonous clouds, while blockades can increase the time between enemy respawns.

Respawning in MAG is cyclical, so your wait time will vary and you will usually spawn at the same time as at least a few teammates. You could be waiting 3 seconds or 17 seconds, depending on when you die. Players are either killed outright or incapacitated and left to be revived or to bleed out. In one match, our squad began telling each other when a respawn time was coming up so they could bleed out and have a quick respawn. This tactic kept more of our squad on the ground at any given time, and it's this kind of communication that MAG hopes to foster.

Whether players will fully embrace that communication remains to be seen and is also dependent on how many PlayStation 3 owners have headsets. I'll be spending the next few days climbing through the ranks, earning my command stripes, and seeing what the view is like from the top in order to write a comprehensive review. Check back early next week for the final verdict.

Written By

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

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306 comments
darkdredude
darkdredude

Just read the final review on the other page. Nice job gamespot, glad you took your time. So if you have not read it yet go read it. SO we can stop the nonsense of bashing this great game. Valor all the way

Legion4Hire
Legion4Hire

@flowjo69 Thanks for the explanation... I new the smart people at Zipper had a great thought behind the respawn... I'm lovin' the game even more!

rebelliousdude
rebelliousdude

@919Pitbull919 dude i totally agree. i dunno how many times ive tried to explain to people that theres always a trade-off between graphics,sound etc for large player counts, large maps, having vehicles etc. people think the ps3 is some godlike machine that can handle everything when it cant. i bet if these guys made MAG2 with mw2 graphics in a couple years time people wud still cry - ignorant gamers put graphics over gameplay these days. and the funny thing is MAG still looks like a ps3 game, i dont get why people say it looks like a ps2 game..clearly they need to get their ps2 out and play it to refresh their memory

jj_wrecks
jj_wrecks

@ Ultrama666, Actually, Valor wins quite a bit. You do NOT own all the contracts. Plus there are more players in SVER, hence more high level players as well. In fact everyone who rushed into that Faction just to be on a winning team is in for a surprise, because I win quite a bit. The servers do a decent job of keeping high and low levels playing each other, but its not always possible. I would say most of the people that played the beta think that SVER is the best faction for some reason and so they joined that and so all the people with experience are already on your teams. Once all the people that arent hardcore gamers stop playing im sure we will see much more balanced factions. And just because my team sucks doesnt mean SVER is the better faction. In fact my KDR vs SVER is double what it is vs Raven. And i have a 3.5 to 1 KDR.

toasty1979
toasty1979

£40.00 spare, MAG or Mass effect 2? Mass effect 2 or MAG? Hmmmmm.

HectorFAO
HectorFAO

No coment until I play this game for myself!

Ultrama666
Ultrama666

I've been playing since Launch day, if your not S.V.E.R your gonna get owned. I don't say this to force you to join our side its just a way of life. We own all the contracts bc S.V.E.R soldiers fight Raven campers and Valor is just MW2 crazies who get shot up like crazy. Anyway I own M.A.G happy to have it but its just like Battlefield honestly. Except not as many tanks. If I had a choice go with Battlefield BC2. Me I went with both.

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

@ Myungish I have tried this out and all though fun with bad company comming you are right. If you are not planning to buy something after March then you should get this.

myungish
myungish

really not sure whether i should get this. i play fps mainly on my pc though i have played killzone 2 and thought it was decent. plus bad company's just around the corner so i dont want to waste money on a game im not going to be playing in a month's time.

rbx270j
rbx270j

minor quibble Mr. Watters : It's respec, not respect points

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

Thank you for working on a decent review gamespot. Now gamespot...TELL PS3 OWNERS IN A SPEACIL ARTICLE TO BUY HEADSETS!!!

ruffryd172
ruffryd172

WOW Coming off MW2 on the 360 and all they're glitching whoooas (boston dialect) you'll figure it out.... this game can not be sent fast enough. Finally a shooter where you shoot and someone dies.

FusionRain
FusionRain

@TrueIori ok i get what u mean but really thats not that bi of a deal. it was a beta plus thats just the fult of people not having headsets. and i know what everyone says the 360 comes with a head set. yeah but that thing sucks i found it not working in after a very short time and b4 that i get back allot of what i cant understand u. plus ps3 has blu tooth connection so i use my blu tooth and it work perfect. psn is not the best but live with all the mods really isn't that fun

A_Res
A_Res

I bought this game and have been playing nothing else since its release. Its entertaining. But just as was the case with MW2, from some reason I want to put Socom in instead. If you're a fan of FPS, this game won't disappoint.

mach-stem
mach-stem

@MERGATROYDER - Sorry, I had misread the BF1942 as BF2142, but the fact remains that BF1942 was 49$ at launch, and was a PC title (hence, always a little cheaper..for the most part)..so the fact remains that the game is even older than four years, which clearly justifies my statement. As for my ego, who is the one posting about working part-time for GS? Oh, right, my ego..yeah. Either way, you're obviously entitled to your opinion, but instead of focusing on a game you don't like, how about you focus on your own development. When you get to create your own game under review, I'll be the first to offer you my personal advice, and I can guarantee your pretentious nature will render your end product a failure. As for this game, I finally saw the product first hand and I have to admit that it's definitely something else. I'm glad to see that such a large scale game can be this optimized for a console. Congrats to the developers! I'd like to see what else they have in store..possibly make this, or something similar, into a PC title? :)

julgamespot1
julgamespot1

@ focus0894...if you expect a game that renders 256 characters at once to be a stunner then you're sorely mistaken. And they in no way hamper the experience. I remember the days when guys would play Counterstrike years and years after it was released even though it had late PS1/early PS2 styled graphics because of the experience. PS2 could get no where near this scale and LOD with graphics as good as these.

Patrickstar1986
Patrickstar1986

Oh yeah it's pretty worthless Gamespot to do a review two weeks after the game has been released. Pay me some cash and I'll do work for you guys, I may not always be right, but I understand that a review should hit around release date if not earlier so players can make a better informed decision. I would call this dropping the ball. I'm not a terrible fan of either MW2 or MAG. MW2 is broken now I hear, what would you expect from hackers, and MAG really is a bit on the short side for being worked on for all of this time.

Patrickstar1986
Patrickstar1986

I've played for 10 hours and I'm pretty bored with the game. It's fairly easy considering I never speced up any tree, just going for reviving people and being able to slash with the knife better using that and the sidearm machine pistol I tended to dominate other players the same way I did in MW1. While I enjoyed the familiarity I just grew bored of the fact its just a large assault match no matter what mode you play. Seriously, couldn't they have placed in a capture the briefcase, flag, or nuclear backpack or something so the entire game wasn't: Sit at A or Run to B. However the game can bring you in easily with it being so much like its competition in a sense. The Shadow War concept seems tacked on for it being the entire game, giving you bonuses when your team wins a set number of battles in one game type I believe. Bonuses that for the most part aren't relevant enough to the gameplay to matter. The fact that there is so many people playing this game without headsets or in a different language kind of give you a distanced feeling with your squad. If you are part of a clan, chances are you are fighting against a random group of players. Also as an additive to clan players, this is a killer, after you reach lvl 60 after hours of play, what else would you want to do but switch factions and go back to level one. That being an example of how shallow this Shadow War really is. Chances are you will enjoy MAG, but for how long?

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

@ focus0894 what are you talkign about it is probably your connection because when I play it runs very smooth same did bfbc2 but I didn't like bfbc2 got bored with the beta very fast

afrosud12
afrosud12

interesting.... maybe if it's successful, it could spill over to other platforms or maybe DICE could make a game on this scale

TrueIori
TrueIori

@AlphaWolF_J yeah it good to see Gamespot take their time to review games, i think this is the first time they do it for a Console game but i could be wrong. They do this almost every time with MMO's, surprised they did not do it for Mass effect 2 though

flowjo69
flowjo69

@Legion4Hire just so you know the spawn timer is there so teams can spawn in waves and it gives the squads more time to get assembled if it was a continual spawn with no timer then it would make the game less balanced and it would also take away from the hardcore nature of the war

focus0894
focus0894

I'm sorry, but honestly for me, Battlefield Bad Company 2 might beat Modern Warfare 2 and MAG, I mean, I've been playing the demo for DAYS now and I can't stop playing it, it's very polished and it's the only war game out that actually feels like a real war is going on. MAG also has a choppy framerate which REALLY annoys me, and the graphics are almost PS2 quality, well, I might be wrong, this might be a good game, because I don't want to sound like I'm bashing the game or anything, just making some honest observations, thumb me down if you want.

pdrouin
pdrouin

this review is taking long...

jokethis21
jokethis21

Zura your so wrong.. Mag is a teamwork game, When in CoD, all you need is yourself... There are more than 20 diff things i can name thats different about the two.

alexhoyt
alexhoyt

I got MAG at midnight when it came out and to me it is one of the best team oriented games I have played. I am an Officer in charge(OIC) which makes you really need to think of some strategy when attacking or defending on the domination map. The only downfall right now is people still don't have the team concept down to well. This can hurt sometimes as and OIC when you need a certain squad to go defend a position or repair something you have to tell their squad leaders what needs to be done but they don't always listen. Other than that MAG is a solid shooting that will keep me going for some time.

Zura1
Zura1

You CAN compare those two games because they are BOTH similar shooters. MAG is better than MW2 in many, many ways. Although it's solely you're opinion only.

RufusChambers
RufusChambers

Lol my god, this is so old meme. Have any of you played MAG 2????!

Legion4Hire
Legion4Hire

MAG is a must buy... There is no other shooter like it... MAG has grew on me and now I'm an addict... I was very critical of it at first bc I was comparing it to CODMW2... The thing I love about MAG is that its a true team game and MAG does a great job of rewarding teamwork... Its really impossible for a single player to dominate the whole game or just do there own thing like people do in CODMW2... I too don't like the spawning process but it does serve a purpose and makes players think twice of acting really reckless. But I've gotten use to it.

gimgak
gimgak

looks good but why does it take like 4 rpg blast to take out a helicopter?

jokethis21
jokethis21

I love MAG, but your all so ignorant... How can you say its better than CoD, when its a completely different style shooter? CoD is more independant, and MAG you need to work as a team. CoD, you can do much better if you work as a team, but its not completely needed.. Whoever is sayign its better, your retarded... You cant judge different style shooters.

kstock07
kstock07

I haven't played mag yet and was wondering how the instensity of the shooting compares to other online shooter juggernauts like resistence 2, MW2 and Killzone 2? all comments would be great !

flowjo69
flowjo69

its the best shooter right now and i really dont think BF bc2 has anything on this mag does not have a dedicated class its all customizable if you want to repair and heal and have a rpg then you can its all up to how much weight your carrying if you go over on weight you will have to slim down on something your carrying whether it be your armor or something as small as your lens on your gun everything has a weight to it and affects the overall construct of your build this to me is what makes mag so special the fact that everyone can have a med gun to heal and rez or everyone can have a repair gun its essential to have different builds for different maps and it depends on offense or defense the game is super deep squad leaders have area of affect abilities so if they spec heavy into electronics the tools they pick up benefits the whole squad buy this game no shooter can touch it

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

@ gobbo00 you are still wrong I go over to the other sides every once in a while and I don't die it is ONE server and yes you do see more than 64 players one time I saw over 100 players on my screen without any lag or no frame rate drop I have played it since the first beta phase so I know what I'm talking about also I was in a 60 player battle in R2 where all the players where in the same area

AlphaWolF_J
AlphaWolF_J

Im just glad to see Gamspot proving that they take there time to do a proper review of a games unlike IGN that are only intrested in GETTING A TOTAL LOOSER to play a game for 30 mins and rushing out awful reviews just to get the (FIRST) wel done GS take your time as a real review that takes longer is better than a fake review that is done by a mw2 FANBOY in a rush to discredit a game that they totally overscored . Mass effect 2 not better than MW2 in score terms GTFO! ign,orance

theru8543
theru8543

My experience with the game is as follows....i was very excited to play the game, ive been waiting for it ever since i heard rumors about the game a while ago. When i started playing i like the whole feel of the game but as soon as i got killed and it took me 18 seconds to respawn i realized how much the game SUCKS!!!!!!!! The respawing ruins the ENTIRE GAME...and i know you will all disagree with me but i feel like as soon as you get some progress and get in a groove, your dead and it takes sometimes 3, sometimes 15 seconds to respawn. In my opinion that completely ruined an otherwise GREAT game...if there was any way to change that i would def continue playing but now it continues to be a distant 2nd to CODMW2

LazyGreek
LazyGreek

Just a suggestion to the player in this review, or even the readers watching. When playing for sabotage maps. You can create different loadouts. So you don't have to carry a repair kit when there is nothing to repair. Overall, I've been playing for a week now (up to level 46 on Raven). The game has alot of depth and teamplay which I like. Having good communication really does help with Acquisition and Domination maps. So when you call out "Im repairing the AA, others know whats going on" So as I read people don't want to get a mic, its funny, $300+ for the PS3, $60 games..but noooooo to a $20 mic? It gives you a much better experience in my opinion. Anyhow. have fun playing, Its a good buy !!!!

rgjj
rgjj

i prefer this to mw2 as its new different and works, decent squad commander and i dont feel u need a headset unless thats wat u wanna do, ign gave it 7.5 but cant see how theyve had chance to quick review of it but hey each to thier own

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

@viotek - with you there dude, MAG IS better than CoD in my opinion too... maybe I shoulda saved the cash I spent on CoDMW2 and bought a headset for MAG(!) lol

viotek
viotek

The game is amazing! At first I thought the shooting mechanics seemed kinda funny but after a few upgrades to stabalize my weapon and a reflex sight I'm a hardened killing machine! I stoped playing MW2 for this game because this is so much more interactive. And on domination every platoon might start off in seperate locations but it feels like an organized military attack on a base. When I was playing defense with V.A.L.O.R, we were lossing and pushed back to the central spawn. All 128 players of V.A.L.O.R were pushed back to one building while S.V.E.R had us surrounded. We might of lost but this was one instance of battle where all 256 players were in the exact same location and there was absolutly no lag. I ran around as a medic healing everyone.. It was an amazing battle! Excelent Job Zipper,, Bravo

swamplord666
swamplord666

@Bashers79 he's wrong. there's 64 player battles in acquisition, but domination is full 256 players. you're fighting on different fronts in the same game

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

It's a brave decision to have a game so dependent on a headset as an exclusive for a console that doesn't even pack one in with it... even braver not to put a headset in with the game, or even have it as an optional extra on a different version like they did with SOCOM. Shame, because it's a great game what I've played so far, I just refuse to go out and spend £17 on a headset purely because some elitist idiots online keep screaming at me when they can't hear me talk back. Oh well, it is quite funny I suppose.

TruXael
TruXael

I have this game, it is the best thing since sliced bread. This isn't your arcade shooter, you need to work as a team and know what your doing. There's no need to worry about the communication in this game, this isn't Xbox Live you know. PSN users are competent. Anyone remotely interested in this game should just go out and buy it, there's nothing to regret here.

jj_wrecks
jj_wrecks

Actually Gobbo, its not 4x 64. It is in a way, but you can actually see the 3 other platoons fighting once you all get in a more concentrated area, you can actually go help other platoons defend objectives if your squad doesnt need you but another one does. So what your stating is false. It actually IS a 256 player battle, just the map and the objectives are spread out so there isnt too many players in one area. You can still go wherever you want. Please dont comment unless youve played it.

_distemper
_distemper

Looks good, but something about the First Person gun control and animation looks off to me. I can't quite describe what it exactly is, it just seems... really weird. Like, the reloading and the gunfire just seems off.

toasty1979
toasty1979

Might be a bit of a jump from Halo's 4 vs 4 lol. Buying this next week can't wait for the massacre!

Sirbobislost
Sirbobislost

@ gobbo00 well that's funny cause I had no trouble going off exploring the map and stumbling across a firefight that didn't involve my squad

jasopan
jasopan

The reviews taking a while because GS are contemplating between a 9.5 and a 10 :)

BigBacon87
BigBacon87

This game really is awesome. You won't realize it so much at first but once you get into the 256 player matches things get intense! I still play MW2 as I have casual gamer friends who didn't pick MAG up and after playing MAG I found myself lighting people up with ease in MW2, so MAG definately has the hardcore audience there supporting it. Great work Zipper! You made a bold move and I for one think it payed off large, Im sure the game will be fun for years to come.

Bashers79
Bashers79

@gobbo00 do you know that for sure? or are you making an educated guess based on the article?Im not trying to start an arguement or anything, just want to know as I'm in two minds whether to buy a copy. If it is as you say then I'll probably just get BF:BC2